Nigeria - Never Knowingly Undersold, by Peter Jones (1979)

I didn’t ever think particularly about the connection between my (fairly common) name and that of my namesake, that once well known department store at Sloane Square in London, (it has since changed its name back to John Lewis, but at least my contemporaries will be famiiar with 'Peter Jones at Sloane Square') until one quiet Sunday at home in Ikoyi, when the telephone rang. Now this was quite an event for us, as our home telephone had not worked at all for the previous six months, despite numerous requests to the phone company to come and repair it.

I picked it up and said a hesitant “Hello, who speaking?”, expecting it to be, at best, a Nigerian lineman experimenting with the tangle of wires along the road outside the house. “Hello, is that Peter Jones?” asked a bright and cheery voice, clear as a bell - and without the usual crackling and background noise that I remembered from periods when the phone had - occasionally - worked. “This is John Lewis!” I didn’t know anybody called John Lewis in Lagos, or in London for that matter, so was somewhat puzzled. “I’m with BOAC overseas telecomms department in London” he explained, “I need to come out to Lagos fairly soon and make some changes to your office telex system, so when would be convenient?”

I asked him whether he also had a magic touch with telephones, but he said no, they weren’t his area of expertise, but he had been quite surprised how easily he got through!

John flew out to Lagos during the following week; the telex, often our only means of communication with the outside world, was duly updated, while our home telephone then reverted to its usual sullen silence for the rest of my posting in Nigeria..

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